Nature protection and biodiversity - State and impacts (Poland)
- Nature and biodiversity
The biodiversity of Poland is quite precisely known. It is estimated that the number of species on the territory of Poland totals around 63 000, of which 28 000 species are plants and fungi and 35 000 species are animals (of which around 700 species are vertebrates). There are 485 communities of plants (using the Braun-Blanquet method), which characterise the entire biodiversity of land, freshwater and marine communities. Around 12 % of them are endemic communities.
According to the Polish Red Book of Animals (2001), 111 species of vertebrates are endangered or vulnerable. Negative trends have also been observed with regard to 1 648 species of plant, where 29 % of the endangered species are lichens, 20 % liverworts and macromycetes, 18 % mosses and 15 % vascular plants (Polish Red Book of Plants, 2001).
Poland is characterised by a rich mosaic of habitats which are the result of traditional ways of life, particularly in agricultural areas. A considerable portion of agricultural areas has high natural value, providing refuge for threatened flora and fauna. Thanks to small scale agriculture, Poland has retained to this day local crop varieties and traditional breeds.
The following rare and threatened species listed in the Habitats Directive at European level are subject to protection in Poland: 80 types of natural habitats, 92 species of plants, including 7 whose specimens can be taken from the wild, and 143 species of animal (excluding birds), including 20 whose specimens can be taken from the wild. The current results of monitoring of species and natural habitats indicate that in the continental region (which makes up 96.2 % of the area of the country), the majority of species and habitats are in an unfavourable-inadequate conservation status (U1). Species and natural habitats in the alpine regions (the Carpathians) are in a better conservation status, but this region accounts for only 3.2 % of the total area of the country. In both regions, the conservation status of species was more favourable than the status of habitats.
Changes in the numbers of indicator species of birds in the agricultural landscape summarised in the Farmland Bird Index 23 (FBI 23) showed an initial decline of 15 % in 2000-2004, followed by a period of slow improvement (2005-2007) and, in 2008, a rapid return to the original levels of 2000.
The results of bird monitoring, including monitoring of the Natura 2000 special bird protection areas show that in 2000-2008 there was an increase in the populations of the most common species of birds.
Fig. 3: Changes in the aggregated population index of 87 common species of birds registered in the MPPL programme, distributed over protected areas as: SPAs, non-SPAs, and for the country overall (source: GIOŚ/PMŚ)
A representative example of the changes in the natural environment can be seen in the changes in the populations of birds selected as flagship species, which are indicators of the extensive utilisation of the landscape.
One practical step taken to protect biodiversity has been the creation of a network of protected areas and sites in Poland. The most valuable natural areas that were placed under protection (as at the end of 2008) were: 23 national parks, 1 441 nature reserves, 120 scenic landscape parks and 418 protected landscape areas. Other forms of protecting nature are: ecological sites (6 798 sites), documentation posts (164 sites), natural-landscape complexes (214 sites) and 35 833 natural monuments. Some 32 % of the territory of Poland is protected in one way or another, usually on grounds of natural or scenic importance.
As part of its integration with the European Union, Poland actively joined the Natura 2000 environmental network programme, whose main aim is to create a system for the effective protection of natural habitats and species of importance at a European level. From 2004-2009, Poland sent the European Commission a series of proposed lists of areas, as a result of which (as at the end of October 2009) 144 SAC bird areas have been designated (covering 15.8 % of the land area of the country) and 823 areas of Community importance have been submitted to the European Commission (covering 11 % of the country’s land area). The total area covered by Natura 2000 is 19.8 % of the total land area of Poland.
Despite the significant growth in the number of protected areas and efforts to restore biodiversity, the particular problems which need to be resolved if further progress is to be made in protecting biodiversity include: the fact that some areas of great natural value have been omitted from the system of protected areas, lack of adequate tools for preserving biodiversity outside protected areas, lack of legal provision for creating environmental corridors, and a weak protection regime for protected landscape areas. Another problem is difficulty in gaining public acceptance of the creation of new or expansion of existing protected areas, including Natura 2000 and national parks (e.g. Jurajski, Turnicki and Mazurski national parks, and expanding Białowieża).
Poland is not threatened by deforestation in the same way as has been observed in many other countries, which threatens sustainable development. Forests currently account for 29.0 % of the area of Poland (approx. 9 m hectares). A further increase in the forested areas of the country is planned, taking into account natural conditions. Afforestation works in Poland are the responsibility of the National Afforestation Programme (KPZL), whose main aim, in conformity with the aims of the National Policy on Forests, is to increase the forested areas of Poland to 30 % in 2020 and 33 % in 2050. Poland is characterised by the predominance of state-owned forests, which are not such an important feature in other parts of the European Union. 78 % of Polish forests are managed by the state. Forests in national parks, municipal forests and other forests belonging to the Treasury constitute 4 % of all forest areas. The remaining 18 % are private. However, the protection, management and use of private forests give great cause for concern. They are fragmented, often poorly managed or neglected, and occupy an area of some 1.6 million hectares, or 18 % of all woodland in Poland.
Woodland ecosystems in Poland are the most valuable and most widely occurring element in all forms of nature conservation, which cover 32 % of the area of the country. Almost half (43.5 %) of protected areas are made up of woodland. The areas managed by the State Forests National Forest Holding contain the majority of the most valuable and most scenic areas and natural protection sites.